By Alex Gibson
In one of the many memorable scenes of The Gambler, Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) weaves through a lecture hall lamenting the absence of genius in the world. He teaches his students that genius is born, not bred, and those who don’t have it shouldn’t even try. Though he does not call himself a genius, he will come to admit that three of his students are: the nationally ranked tennis-player Dexter (Emory Cohen), the school’s all-star basketball player (Anthony Kelley), and a shy young writer (Brie Larson). By the end of the film, these three will also be the only people who see Jim in both halves of his life, the only ones who see both sides of the coin, or in his case, the casino chip.
A loose remake of the 1974 film of the same name, The Gambler stars Mark Wahlberg as Jim, an English professor who racks up over $260,000 worth of debt and is given seven days to repay it. Jim owes the bulk of his money to a Korean gangster Mister Lee (Alvin Ing) and Neville, a genial moneylender (Michael Kenneth Williams). After receiving and gambling away a payout from his mother (Jessica Lange), Jim later goes to Frank, played hauntingly by John Goodman, for another loan. While it seems that The Gambler centers around gambling addiction as the original film did, this version focuses more on a character who wants to get away from his life and finds an escape in casinos.
Earlier this month, The Gambler director Rupert Wyatt visited Philadelphia for a special screening of the film. The next day, I got the opportunity to discuss his film with him.